Solar power is fast becoming more and more common in properties all over New Zealand, with tens of thousands of homes enjoying the benefits of solar.
As electricians dedicated to helping Wellington homes and businesses move to more eco-friendly and energy efficient options, we’re thrilled to see so many Kiwis choosing this environmentally friendly power source.
If you’re considering installing solar power on your property, it’s a good idea to understand the basics of what’s involved.
How Does Solar Power Work?
Every second of every day, the sun emits huge amounts of solar energy. In fact, if we could harness every bit of energy the sun produces for just one hour, it would be enough to power the entire planet for a whole year.
However at the moment, humans are only capturing a tiny fraction (approximately 1/10,000th) of that energy. Even so, solar power is making fantastic improvements to our energy sources.
To capture it, we use solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which absorb the light and convert it into direct current (DC). Next, the DC flows into an inverter in the system, which converts it to alternating current (AC), which is what is used within the home.
It’s also important to mention that very few homes run entirely on solar power. They are still connected to the main electrical grid, which means you can draw on traditional energy when solar doesn’t provide enough, and it also means if your panels produce more than you need, you can sell it into the grid.
The Components Of Solar Power
There are three main components when it comes to a standard solar power set-up in the home.
The first and most obvious are the panels. The size, number, and placement of the panels depends entirely on the home or commercial building and your power needs, but they are generally placed on the roof facing north to capture the most sunlight possible.
An inverter is also an important part of any solar power system. This device converts the DC captured by the panels into AC, which can be used by the property.
Finally, it is possible (but not necessary) to also include a battery in your set-up. Without a battery, you cannot store power to use later, as it must either be used immediately or sent to the grid. With a battery, you can store power for later use. However, battery costs are still relatively high, their use is not particularly common in New Zealand homes, the upside of this is that they are getting more cost efficient and quality increases each year so there are better products on the market now then there were a few years ago and the trend looks to keep going.
Power Assessments For Homes And Businesses
Before getting solar power installed, you will need to have a building energy assessment for your property.
The purpose of an assessment is to determine a few key points:
What exactly is your objective, what you wish to power with solar and how many kW you will need
How and where the installation will go, in some cases solar may not be worth it due to shading caused by trees and hills.
Reviewing you power bill, assessing how much you can save per month on average and payback period.
Reviewing your existing installation and determining ways to lower your bill by implementing changes to lifestyle/product changes. By lowering your overall usage of energy, it’s possible you could power your entire home with solar.
It will include a visit from an expert, where they will take into account the angle and direction available on your roof, how much space there is, how much energy you use in the home, any shade that might affect the solar panels, and more.
Ultimately, this assessment will tell you if solar power is a good fit for your home.
Most solar panel providers will offer free assessments to home and business owners, so be sure to make use of this service before taking the next steps.
Benefits of solar and pay backs
One of the biggest benefits of solar power is that you are using less traditional energy, which could come from sources that are not as eco-friendly as solar.
However, for most homeowners, the real drawcard is the savings that can be made on power bills. While there are certainly costs for setting up the system, modern solar panel set-ups are estimated to pay themselves off in 10 years or so, depending on the panels and your energy use within the home.
Additionally, most solar panels do not produce enough power to create excess. That means it’s rare for homes to be able to sell electricity back to the grid. In order to create that much power, you would likely need to install more panels than strictly needed, so it’s not generally considered to be a good investment to overshoot your power requirements.
So it will take some time before your solar panel installation pays dividends, but keep in mind that they have a 25 year warranty and until that point, you’re helping the planet, and have added real value to your home should you choose to sell.
The good news is that the price of installing solar power has dropped dramatically in recent years, so it has become a lot more attainable for Kiwis.
The bad news is that there are currently no nationwide subsidies available for solar power installation.
However, some lenders are offering incentives to homeowners. Kiwibank offers a Sustainable Energy Loan, where if you borrow more than $5,000 to make sustainable energy changes such as solar power, they will contribute up to $2,000 over four years for the cost of the system.
Otherwise, it may be a case of either saving up for an installation or adding the installation cost to your mortgage, alternatively Lite Energy has Q card set up for interest free finance options should you choose to go down this route .